To Laverick Wells

THE FLATTERING ACCOUNTS Mr Sponge read in the papers of the distinguished company assembled at Laverick Wells, together with details of the princely magnificence of the wealthy commoner, Mr Waffles, who appeared to entertain all the world at dinner after each day’s hunting, made Mr Sponge think it would be a very likely place to suit him. Accordingly, thither he despatched Mr Leather with the redoubtable horses by the road, intending to follow in as many hours by the rail as it took them days to trudge on foot.

Railways have helped hunting as well as other things, and enables a man to glide down into the grass ‘sheers,’ as Mr Buckram calls them, with as little trouble, and in as short a time almost, as it took him to accomplish a meet at Croydon, or at the Magpies at Staines. But to our groom and horses.

Mr Sponge was too good a judge to disfigure the horses with the miserable, pulpy, weather-bleached job-saddles and bridles of ‘livery,’ but had them properly turned out with well-made, slightly-worn London ones of his own, and nice, warm brown woollen rugs, below broadly-bound, blue-and-white-striped sheeting, with richly-braided lettering, and blue and white cordings. A good saddle and bridle makes a difference of ten pounds in the looks of almost any horse. There is no need because a man rides a hack-horse to proclaim it to all the world; a fact that few hack-horse letters seem to be aware of. Perhaps, indeed, they think to advertise them by means of their inferior appointments.

Leather, too, did his best to keep up appearances, and turned out in a very stud-groomish-looking, basket- buttoned, brown cutaway, with a clean striped vest, ample white cravat, drab breeches and boots, that looked as though they had brushed through a few bullfinches; and so they had, but not with Leather’s legs in them, for he had bought them second-hand of a pad groom in distress. His hands were encased in cat’s-skin sable gloves, showing that he was a gentleman who liked to be comfortable. Thus accoutred, he rode down Broad Street at Laverick Wells, looking like a fine, faithful old family servant, with a slight scorbutic affection of the nose. He had everything correctly arranged in true sporting marching order. The collar-shanks were neatly coiled under the headstalls, the clothing tightly rolled and balanced above the little saddle-bags on the led horse, Multum in Parvo’s back, with the story-telling whip sticking through the roller.

Leather arrived at Laverick Wells just as the first shades of a November night were drawing on, and anxious mammas and careful chaperons were separating their fair charges from their respective admirers and the dreaded night air, leaving the streets to the gas-light men and youths ‘who love the moon.’ The girls having been withdrawn, licentious youths linked arms, and bore down the broad pavée, quizzing this person, laughing at that, and staring the pin-stickers and straw-chippers out of countenance.

‘Here’s an arrival!’ exclaimed one. ‘Dash my buttons, who have we here?’ asked another, as Leather hove in sight. ‘That’s not a bad looking horse,’ observed a third. ‘Bid him five pounds for it for me,’ rejoined a fourth.

‘I say, old Bardolph! who do them ’ere quadrupeds belong to?’ asked one, taking a scented cigar out of his mouth.

Leather, though as impudent a dog as any of them, and far more than a match for the best of them at a tournament of slang, being on his preferment, thought it best to be civil, and replied with a touch of his hat, that they were ‘Mr Sponge’s.’

‘Ah! old sponge biscuits! -- I know him!’ exclaimed a youth in a Tweed wrapper. ‘My father married his aunt. Give my love to him, and tell him to breakfast with me at six in the morning -- he! he! he!

‘I say, old boy, that copper-coloured quadruped hasn’t got all his shoes on before,’ squeaked a childish voice, now raised for the first time.

That’s intended, gov’nor,’ growled Leather, riding on, indignant at the idea of anyone attempting to ‘sell him’ with such an old stable joke. So Leather passed on through the now splendidly lit up streets, the

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